Why Do Vegans, Particularly Pregnant Vegans Need Omega-3s?
Vegans and non-vegans need omega-3 fatty acids because these fats are not produced by the body and are considered “essential” – meaning they need to be consumed from foods or supplements. These essential oils are even more important during pregnancy as they are needed for the baby’s brain development.
Omega-3 fatty acids have many roles in the body and have been extensively studied. Some of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation in the body and reduce chronic inflammation from Western diets and chronic diseases
- Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce depression and anxiety as well as modulate ADHD in children
- Omega-3 fatty acids fight autoimmune diseases and disorders
- Omega-3 fatty acids support brain health and development, including developing fetuses in a pregnant mom and warding off mental decline like Alzheimer’s
Vegan Food Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It’s not news to many of us that salmon and fish oil are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, but what if you have chosen not to consume animal products? Then where can you find Omega-3 fatty acids?
Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids can be found in chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and algae/algae oil.
The only plant-based source of DHA and EPA (specific for brain health and pregnant women) can be found in algae. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds all contain ALA. ALA is also an Omega-3 but it must be converted to EPA and DHA for utilization and unfortunately, our bodies aren’t the best at this process with only about 5% of ALA being converted to EPA and less than .05% of ALA being converted to DHA. This means that you must consume a diet high in ALA foods to meet the EPA/DHA recommendations and see the benefit of an omega-3 rich diet.
Why You Would Want to Consider a Vegan Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement
If you are pregnant, trying to reduce chronic inflammation, trying to modulate an autoimmune disorder, or consuming a diet not high in omega-3 foods, an omega-3 supplement is recommended.
Even if you are not vegan but you’re looking at an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, I would recommend a vegan marine algae one because it’s a sustainable option. The fish oil supplements are more troubling for the environment and the ocean. The interesting thing is that the main reason the fish contain omega-3 fatty acids is because they consume a high amount of the marine algae. So by purchasing a vegan marine algae based omega-3 supplement, you’re receiving DHA, EPA, and cutting out the “middle man” that may have toxins and other factors to consider.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid recommendations
Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women – At least 300mg of DHA according to the American Pregnancy Organization
Although, most sources will tell you that DHA and EPA are recommended and it’s recommended to supplement combined at least 200-500mg DHA and EPA with at least 300mg coming from DHA. The below recommendations meet that criteria but know that there are other vegan omega-3 supplements out there that do not meet this criteria and are still heavily marketed as vegan prenatal DHA supplements.
6 Best Vegan Omega-3 Supplements During Pregnancy
Now that we’ve touched on why you would want to take an omega-3 supplement, let’s dive into the best ones on the market and why. Let me also say that I strongly encourage/advise all of my vegan clients to start taking an omega-3 fatty acid as the benefit far outweighs the risk, but especially those that are expecting a little one on the way…again, there are a lot of vegan omega-3 supplements on the market and many of them only contain DHA. It’s important that the supplement contain both DHA and EPA. All of the supplements mentioned skip the fish and go directly to the source (which makes the most sense if you ask me!).
What we love: Nordic Naturals creates many vegan and plant-based omega-3 supplements (and fish based omega-3 fatty acid supplements along with other products), but they are a reputable brand. We like this Algae Omega blend better than their prenatal as it has both DHA and EPA oils (390mg DHA, 190mg EPA) and meets the recommendation of a combined >500mg omega-3 fatty acid blend with at least 300mg coming from DHA. The vegan capsule is an easy way to ensure your omega 3 fatty acids are being met with high quality ingredients to support you and your growing baby during pregnancy and beyond (hint: I recommend this one often to my clients). Find Nordic Naturals Algae Omega HERE.
Considerations: If you are concerned about or avoiding carrageenan, the vegetarian capsule does use this ingredient.
What we love: The SR vegan omega-3 fatty acid supplement has the optimal 2:1 ratio with 420mg of DHA and 210mg EPA from algae oil. It’s a carrageenan free capsule that has also been certified non-GMO and vegan. Check out the vegan omega-3 supplement HERE.
Considerations: This is a bit of an unknown brand and with that you can expect a lower price point but there is something to be said about a longstanding quality reputation in a company like Nordic Naturals.
What we love: Nature’s Way is finally getting with the program and creating more vegan, plant-based supplements! With exactly 500mg omega-3 fatty acids (300mg DHA, 150mg EPA), you can meet your needs in an inexpensive, cruelty-free way. Find Nature’s Way Vegan Omega-3 Supplement HERE.
Considerations: The dosage for the Nature’s Way Vegan Omega-3 Supplement is lower than some others but does still meet the recommendation. The capsule contains carrageenan.
What we love: Similarly to Nature’s Made, Amandean Omega-3 Supplement contains 550mg omegas with 300mg coming from DHA and 150mg from EPA, all of which are algae oil based. The vegan omega-3 supplement does not contain carrageenan either, which can be a benefit for some people. Check out the vegan omega-3 supplement to consider during pregnancy HERE.
Considerations: As a couple of the other vegan omega-3 supplements on this list, Amanadean is a relatively unknown brand that does not have a longstanding quality supplement brand reputation as it is still in its infancy stage.
What we love: Deva is a certified vegan company (meaning all of their supplements are vegan) and while they have a few vegan omega-3 supplements, this one is better in our opinion as it contains both DHA and EPA (versus only DHA). This supplements provides a range of 180-210mg DHA and 90-120mg EPA for a combined 300mg of omega-3 fatty acids. If you consume a large amount of chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds on a daily basis, you would be getting ALA omega-3s from your diet and you may not need to supplement with as many. Either way, check out this vegan company and Deva’s Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement HERE.
Considerations: Deva DHA/EPA contains a lower amount of omega-3 fatty acids and may not be ideal for everyone.
I hope that helped give you vegan options for Omega-3 supplements during pregnancy and beyond (I think they can be a great idea to take postpartum to help manage hair quality and potentially help with mood swings. Plus, if you plan on breastfeeding, continuing with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement is a must. Out of all of these options for a vegan Omega-3 fatty acid supplement, I think Nordic Naturals Algae Omega provides the best ratio with 390mg DHA and 190mg EPA and although it’s not marketed as a prenatal omega-3 fatty acid supplement, it really should be given the great quality ingredients, an ideal amount, and a cruelty-free formula to support you and your growing baby.
If you have any questions about Omega-3 fatty acids, their role, a vegan diet and omegas, or vegan omega-3 supplements, comment below. I’d love to be of assistance.
The Vegan’s Pantry participates in the Amazon Affiliate program, so by clicking on the links, if you choose to purchase anything, we will receive a minimal amount at no additional cost to you. Pretty cool, right?? And this means that we can continue to improve this site to help better serve you!